At 9:00 am sharp, a bell rang and the door opened. In stepped Kensia and what looked like four exact replicas of her. Michael was a bit surprised. They all blinked twice and addressed each member of the group by having them line up behind their respective Kensia. Together, they all set out from the room in one big straight line. Michael caught sight of the statue that he had passed earlier. There is was in all of its glory. This strange bird like creature that looked like a giant bird, but had the body of a beast. This was new. Walking down what was another endless hall of some strange metal, they kept moving.
Once the music had reached a full crescendo, Michael knew it was time. They reached another room and Michael noted that there was another statue here just like the one outside of his room. “It has to be some sort of deity. It just has to be. What is it though and what purpose does it serve?”
In front of the group now sat these rather large, room-sized black cubes with a door open facing them. “Now if you would all be so kind,” said the Kensia leading Iovita, “as to step individually into a cube. While you are inside, you will, at times, be able to see what is going on outside, and other times you will not.”
The next Kensia leading Jodoc continued with, “This year the temple has decided to be a bit more graceful. During the sphere selection process, you will be able to see and hear what your teammates choose as their sphere, but they will be unable to hear you. So try as you might,” they all blinked twice in unison, “your participating teammate will not be able to hear you.”
Michael chose the middle cube and stood in front of the entrance. To his left stood Iovita and Jodoc, and to his right stood Luna and Selena. “Here we go. Let’s focus and win this!” Michael exclaimed.
As they stepped into the cubes, all five Kensia maids bowed as said, “May Altheggan be with you on your journey.” The doors closed and they were flown away.
Michael sat on the bench that was provided within the cube. There was a very dim light emanating from the inside of the cube. That was it. Kensia was right. There was nothing else to be heard or seen. His heart was racing and Michael was feeling very nervous. The cube seemed to be moving as he could feel gravity pulling him slightly forward, but that was it. He could not see anything. So he rested and took some deep breaths. “Worrying about everything and being anxious isn’t going to do anything for me,” he thought.
How long the cube had been moving and kept on moving, he had no idea. It was as if time did not exist where he was. He tried to count a few seconds, but that failed, because he somehow couldn’t remember what came after five. Was the cube interfering with his mind? Creepy. The cube finally came to a stop. The anticipation built up inside of him had infuriated him. He wanted to see or hear something.
Finally, Michael heard a very loud boom. The cube was still dark and he wasn’t moving, but it sounded like he could hear cheering and… was that fireworks? Suddenly the cube’s darkness melted away including the floor causing Michael to yelp and jump back. Looking around he saw his competitors as well as his teammates floating in identical cubes about 100 meters in the air. They were moving ever so slowly in a ring above what he guessed was a stadium of spectators. He looked down and felt his stomach drop. On the field below, he saw what looked like an obstacle course, a maze, and… “are those weapons??” he questioned.
This must have been what Squawky was talking about. “Well, there goes the plan for getting the elements that we wanted.” He gazed over to his left and saw Iovita gesturing to have him look behind his cube. Turning around, he saw a giant board with all of the participant’s names written across, as well as a central line coming down from their names. However, 90% of this board was covered with a very large sheet, so there was no telling what was underneath it. Next to it was a massive screen was what looked like a stage.
The crowd’s roar had grown deafening now that they could see inside the cubes, and it was clear that they were being televised. Cameras were floating all around them like creepy eyes, so Michael nodded towards his group members and started to exude strength with a strong face. Doing what he hated most, he smiled and waved for the camera. “Just dial up the charm. Make them eat it up as if they need to see you more to enjoy this race,” Michael mentally coached himself. The other group members quickly followed suit. Luna waved sweetly and looked excited, Jodoc made a few poses, and Iovita blew some kisses toward the camera. “Man, she’s really cute. Focus. Focus. You idiot!” Michael thought.
It dawned on him that he didn’t know what his competitors looked like. He gazed around at the cubes and saw many different people. Some had massive muscular bodies while others had thin, wispy figures. One guy was crying and another girl was attacking the side of the cube to get out. This year was going to be interesting.
There was no selection process that people knew of for the Race of Regeneration. A scroll was delivered directly from the Temple of Altheggan to you. That was how it worked. Altheggan chose who would personally be in the race. Of course though, the official statement that the Temple put out, was that the process was completely random. Michael then spotted the Protogenian for this year. She stood out like a sore thumb. Her eyes were cold as ice and with her ice blue hair to match, you could not miss her. She stood inside the cube looking bored, and appeared very healthy compared to some of her competitors. She was wearing a full body black suit that hugged her body and a golden cape was attached at the shoulders. She was not enthralled to be here and she made no attempt to hide it. It was probably because she was clearly going to be paired with a group of losing planets.
The clamor started to die down and Michael shifted his gaze back towards the stage. A man walked onto the stage heading towards a podium in the center. He was dressed in the traditional robes for the Temple. It looked awful. The robe that hugged his body was bright blue with crimson flames licking up around the bottom fringe. The ritual hat was a pattern of green and gold. Michael covered his mouth to hide the laugh that was rising in his chest. He had never seen it before, and now in real life, it was pretty ridiculous. He was flanked by, surprise, two Kensia maids, and what appeared to be a group of four soldiers. Those were the elite soldiers that always flanked the Temple’s servants. Rumor has it that they trained on some planet that was difficult to access, so almost no one went there. Expertly trained, one could kill you in five seconds. His eyes followed the rest of the stage to see representatives from every single planet in this year’s race present. Just as he was starting to count, the servant of the temple raised his hands to quiet the crowd and spoke.
“Welcome everyone to the 837th Race of Regeneration!” he shouted into the microphone. Large amounts of cheering broke out and another round of fireworks shot off. Covering his ears due to their proximity, Michael thought that he was going deaf. Rather, between the piano music from earlier and this now, he was sure his hearing was at least damaged. At some point the high vessel of Altheggan would make an appearance and speak. Before he had even finished thinking about it, there was another loud explosion of lights and fireworks as the stage gave way to the black mirror box containing the high vessel.
The high vessel was referred to as “it” because once a person was chosen to be the high vessel of Altheggan, they forfeited the ability to be male or female along with a myriad of other characteristics. Altheggan gave it the title of high vessel, and stripped it of all gender, sexuality, personality, and name. Hence why the vessel was referred to as “it.” The vessel was also clothed in such bright clothing that one could not stare directly at it. One needed a special black mirror to just look at it. Interacting with the vessel, or being in its presence, required even more preparation.
Michael recalled that in an old text it was written that just being in the presence of the vessel was extremely debilitating, and people usually only lasted about 20 minutes before dying. So, when the vessel was in public or made appearances, it had to be transported in a special chamber made of black mirrored glass that allowed the people to look at it directly. When it spoke to the temple staff, communicating the will of Altheggan, they had to consume a special food that was created by Altheggan himself. The food would give them the endurance for an hour to speak with and record the words of the vessel with little to no side effects. Sometimes the vessel gave prophecies, and sometimes it was just direction.
Just like clockwork, the stage exploded in another flash of light and Michael couldn’t quite make out what the man was saying. Something about some words… “Man they really need to work on making this sound system better or reducing the soundproof levels of these cubes,” Michael thought annoyingly.
The stage gave way a second time and the sunken platform rose up high with the black glass mirror box containing the high vessel. Clothed in all silver with flowing blond hair, Michael was stunned for a brief second. Regardless of what the high vessel was now, it used to clearly be quite a beautiful individual. Only those purest of heart and devotion to Altheggan were able to be chosen to be the vessel. He also realized that he could see the bright golden aura it gave off. It of course was dulled by the black mirror glass box, but that was for everyone’s protection. Michael still awestruck was realizing that he was actually seeing the high vessel for the first time in person. The vessel allowed its eyes to float across the crowd taking in everything. The crowd slowly grew silent. It spoke.
“Here am I, the high vessel of Altheggan. I live to serve him just as you do. Now let us fall silent to hear the words that Altheggan has brought to us today,” it said. Suddenly it convulsed all around the box that it was in as if it was being thrown around like a rag doll. Finally it collapsed in the center of the box with a sickening thud. Michael had never seen the high vessel speak, but this was terrifying. Convulsing and contorting, it finally seemed to be collapsed on top of itself with a hand stretch upwards towards the sky.
“Behold I have arrived,” a deafening voice now echoed throughout the stadium. “To the contenders of the Race of Regeneration, I wish you great success. May you succeed. Once your race of puzzles, trials and tribulations had been completed, I shall await you on the 13th moon of Protogenia. Should you be first and bring all of the necessary items, you will then be crowned the winners of this race and the Regeneration of your planets shall commence. Go forth and search the heavens not only for yourselves, but for those at home praying for your success!” A clap of thunder rippled across the sky and suddenly the voice was gone.